BBQ Briquettes Vs Lump Charcoal – What is the Difference?

If you want that truly authentic delicious smoky barbeque flavour, then cooking on charcoal is the only option. But what sort of charcoal should you use? In this post, we investigate the difference between BBQ Briquettes and traditional lump charcoal.

First you need to find the right grill for your needs. If you don’t already have one you can check out our recommendations for the best charcoal grills.

Then you need the right charcoal.

Whether to use lump or BBQ briquette charcoal is an argument that has been debated for over 100 years! So why is it such a difficult question to answer?

Well, first of all, you have to consider what type of grilling you are going to do. Are you searing that amazing wagyu steak or going “low and slow” with a beef brisket? Both require different fuels, and this is where the problems start. Then you need to consider the desired taste and aromas you want to impart on your meat.

In this article, our goal is to help you understand the differences between lump and BBQ briquette charcoal. You can then make the right decisions, buy the right products and be one step closer to becoming a champion BBQ pit boss.

Lump Charcoal

Lump charcoal is made by slowly burning billets of mesquite, maple, beech, or oak without oxygen until the only thing left are irregular shaped lumps of carbonized wood. It burns hot and clean with minimal ash. It contains no additives and lights quickly.

Due to its irregular shape, air flows easily between the coals and it responds very quickly to changes in airflow. This makes it super easy to control the heat output. 

The main criticism of lump charcoal is that it burns quickly and can spit and pop a lot. 

You can see how lump charcoal is made with Mike Johnson from Sugarfire BBQ when he meets Evan Bryant from Royal Oak Charcoal here.

Advantages of Lump Charcoal

  • It burns hotter than briquettes
  • It burns cleaner so you can refuel the grill and carry in cooking
  • Lights very easily due to its irregular shape
  • Contains no additives (all natural)
  • Little ash production
  • Responds quickly to airflow to increase or decrease heat output
  • Traditional fuel
  • The great natural smoky flavor


Disadvantages of Lump Charcoal

  • Burns quickly 
  • Can spit and spark a lot
  • Is fragile so may get damaged in transit
  • Sometimes impregnated with solvent to help ignition
  • Lump charcoal has everything from dust to giant chunks.
  • Uneven cooking
  • The big chunks may not burn completely
  • More expensive than briquettes


What are BBQ Briquettes

BBQ briquettes are a uniform shaped lump of processed charcoal. They are normally made by mixing normal low-grade charcoal with other additives and compressing it into shape.

The main criticism of briquettes is that they often contain additives that produce undesirable tastes and odors. Some of these additives include:

  • Anthracite coal (heat source)
  • Starch (binder)
  • Wastepaper pulp (binder)
  • Mineral carbon (heat source)
  • Borax (mold release agent)
  • Sodium nitrate (ignition aid)
  • Limestone (ash-whitening agent)
  • Raw sawdust (ignition aid)
  • Cement (filler)
  • Fine sand (filler)

The binders hold the briquette together. The ignition aids speed up lighting and the heat sources increase the heat output. Fillers add weight, reduce the production cost, slow down burn time, reduce burn temperature and produce more ash.

You can see how Kingsford make their Charcoal Briquettes here.


Advantages of BBQ Briquettes

  • They maintain a steady temperature for a longer period.
  • Cheaper than lump charcoal.
  • Burn longer so you don’t need to refuel the grill whilst cooking
  • Even temperature across the grill
  • Same size, no dust or small bits
  • Recycled waste product good for the environment
  • Sustainable product
  • Easy to store due to uniform shape and size


Disadvantages of BBQ Briquettes

  • Large ash production
  • Can produce a chemical smell.
  • Takes longer to light.
  • Can include coal and other additives to increase heat output
  • Sometimes impregnated with solvent to help ignition
  • Cannot reach high temperatures so easily for searing meat
    Not traditional

The Best Lump Charcoals

#1. Our Overall Top Pick

Our Rating

Buy from amazon

Celebrity TV BBQ pit boss Harry Soo has won over 30 grand championships and over 100 international awards. He uses Jealous Devil Lump Charcoal. The Jealous Devil brand has taken the lump charcoal market by storm and is a true champions product. Buy this right now if you want to be a hero pit boss.

Pros

  • Produced from extremely dense South American hardwood
  • Burns for over 4 hours (up to 20 in low oxygen)
  • Can reach temperatures of 1100 degrees
  • 100% natural
  • Versatile for high and low temperatures
  • Very low ash

Cons

  • Expensive compared to budget briquettes
Buy from amazon

People are saying that no other charcoal burns cleaner, hotter and longer than B&B Oak Lump Charcoal. Rooted in the heart of Texas, B&B (Better Burning) has produced the finest charcoals since 1961. The oak lump is its all-time classic. It is used for competition barbequing.

Pros

  • Competition grade
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Long burn time
  • 100% natural
  • Versatile for high and low temperatures
  • Very low ash

Cons

  • Expensive compared to budget briquettes
  • Known to spark and pop a little
  • Irregular sizes and sometimes dusty
Buy from amazon

Why is this stuff so expensive? Because it's of super high quality. Big Green Egg is fanatical when it comes to sourcing their oak and hickory for their all-natural charcoal. It is designed especially for their own brand barbeque, but it works equally as well in almost any other make or model grill.

Pros

  • Produced from sustainably sourced oak and hickory
  • No additives at all
  • 100% natural
  • Super high quality
  • Versatile for high and low temperatures
  • Very low ash
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Expensive even when compared to other high-end lump charcoals
  • High demand – frequently out of stock
Buy from amazon

This all-time favorite with millions of lump charcoal fans gives a great product at a great value. This clean-burning robust flavored 100% natural charcoal burns hotter and faster allowing you to sear that steak and cook those moister meats.

Pros

  • A mix of sizes makes lighting easy
  • Includes large pieces for low and slow cooking
  • Great flavor
  • 100% natural
  • Versatile for quick and hot or low and slow cooking
  • Good value

Cons

  • Expensive compared to budget briquettes
  • Maybe a little dusty when opening
Buy from amazon

Used in Japan for cooking yakitori (barbequed skewered chicken), Binchotan charcoal is the highest quality charcoal available. It is produced by heating the wood to over 900 degrees leaving almost pure carbon. It reaches extremely high temperatures and has a great burn time. It would be number 1 if it wasn’t so ridiculously expensive! But as with everything in life, you get what you pay for.

Pros

  • The best of the best quality
  • Almost pure carbon
  • Extremely high burn temperatures
  • Long-lasting
  • Pro-grade – used by top chefs in Japan
  • No additives
  • 100% natural
  • Unburnt bits can be used again next time

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Needs to be kept in an airtight container (and maybe a safe)
  • Has little flavor or odor
Buy from amazon


The Best BBQ Briquettes

Customers are raving about this relative newcomer to the briquette market. These awesome natural hardwood briquettes are nearly TWICE THE SIZE of average pillow briquettes. They compress super dense quebracho hardwood with a tiny pinch of vegetable starch into the largest briquette on the market today. They burn longer, hotter and cleaner giving you the best briquette fuel available.

Pros

  • Twice the size of normal briquettes
  • Less refueling
  • 100% natural
  • No chemical smells
  • Very little ash
  • Super dense hardwood
  • Mega hot burn
  • Great flavor
  • Plastic waterproof bag to keep fuel dry

Cons

  • Occasionally the bag zipper breaks
  • Extremely popular so sometimes out of stock
Buy from amazon

Loads of people are finding the good old trusty Kingsford Briquettes are still their favorite. The grooves in the side of each briquette increase the surface area and shape the edges to give improved airflow and easier lighting. They are ready in around 15 minutes and beat the competition when it comes to ready to cook times. They are 100% natural and give a great authentic smoky flavor.

Pros

  • Sure-fire grooves for easy lighting
  • Fast ready to cook time
  • Improved airflow
  • 100% natural
  • Made in the USA
  • Great flavor
  • Real charcoal flames and smoke
  • The long-serving company you can trust

Cons

  • A little more expensive than some cheaper makes
Buy from amazon

These are premium authentic charcoal briquettes that burn extremely cleanly and leave very little ash. They are 100% all-natural ingredients comprising 95% natural hardwood charcoal and 5% vegetable binder to hold them together. They contain no toxic fillers, coal or other chemicals. The unique shape allows for quick lighting and even heating.

Pros

  • Premium natural hardwood charcoal
  • The hardwood blend gives an excellent unique flavor
  • Produces a consistent long-lasting heat
  • Quickly reaches an even ready to cook temperature
  • Unique design and shape
  • No chemical flavors or odors

Cons

  • Popular product – sometimes difficult to find in stores
  • Slower to light than briquettes with chemical starter additives
  • Slightly more expensive than some of the bargain brands
Buy from amazon

These BBQ briquettes are high-end competition quality products. These briquettes are round in cross-section with a hole through the middle, they light slowly but burn for ages. The burn is also very clean and with very little smoke. They are also bigger compared to pillow shaped briquettes.

Pros

  • Extrusion production gives high density (more heat for longer)
  • Oakwood flavor and aroma

Cons

  • Takes a while to light
  • Can have some large briquettes that need breaking
  • Very hard to find in stores
Buy from amazon

Royal Oak charcoal gives a great oak and hickory hardwood taste to your ribs, burgers and brisket etc. It is great for high and low-temperature cooking and produces very little ash and smoke compared with the more traditional BBQ briquettes. It is produced in America using sustainably sourced oak and hickory.

Pros

  • Produced entirely in America
  • Sustainable production
  • 100% natural
  • Versatile for high and low temperatures
  • Great hickory and oak flavor and smell
  • Very low ash

Cons

  • Slightly more expensive than the budget brands
  • Takes longer to light than briquettes with chemical started added
Buy from amazon


Summary - Are BBQ Briquettes Better than Lump Charcoal?

So, after reviewing some of the best products on the market today, we can see that there is no clear winner. The answer lies in your intent, it depends on your style of cooking, your preference of flavors, your stance on the environment and above all, being yourself.

At least this article may give you the information to make an informed choice. We can however generalize.

  • For the hot fast easy to light low ash quick sprint then it’s likely to be lump charcoal.
  • For the low slow consistent reliable forgiving beef brisket marathon then you might want to pick up a couple of bags of natural extruded briquettes.

Personally, I’d love to be flamboyant and try the Binchotan by Ippinka with a lovely Wagyu steak but I’m more realistically likely to join Harry Soo and go for the Jealous Devil lump charcoal.

Which one would you go for?

Now you know all about charcoal, you may be interested in the next step towards becoming the hero barbeque pit boss – owning the best charcoal smoker!